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SA to outline “decisive” policy in 2018 after debt rating cut
25 November 2017, 3:29 PM

South Africa will use its annual budget next year to outline “decisive” policy to strengthen its fiscal framework, the finance ministry said on Saturday after S&P Global Ratings cut its local currency debt to “junk” status.

S&P announced the downgrade on Friday, citing a further deterioration in the country’s economic outlook and public finances.

Moody’s, meanwhile, placed South Africa on review for a downgrade.

“The 2018 Budget will outline decisive and specific policy measures to strengthen the fiscal framework,” the finance ministry said in a statement, without giving more detail.

The downgrade by S&P comes after Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba shocked markets on Oct. 25 by flagging sharply weaker growth expectations, a wider budget deficit and rising government debt.

The government has since appointed a judicial commission of inquiry into the causes of a R50 billion ($3.6 billion) revenue shortfall and to investigate possible erosion into the nation’s revenue collection capability.

Economic growth has slowed to near zero in recent years and business and consumer sentiment have plumbed multi-decade lows as political uncertainty weighs on the economy.

Infighting within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) ahead of a conference in December to elect a successor to President Jacob Zuma as party chief has also sapped investor confidence.

“Restoring business and consumer confidence, and catalysing inclusive growth are the top priority of government,” the finance ministry said.

South African businesses have been in talks with government more than a year to try to avoid credit ratings downgrades, but when President Zuma in March replaced finance minister Pravin Gordhan with Gigaba, S&P and Fitch cut its ratings a notch within a week.

Nedbank, one of the nation’s largest lenders, on Saturday warned that the latest move by S&P will make it more expensive for government and the private sector to raise funding.

“The February budget statement is South Africa’s last chance to demonstrate the structural reforms and fiscal consolidation that are required to improve economic growth prospects and prevent Moody’s from also downgrading the local currency debt to below investment grade,” Chief Executive Mike Brown said.

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Former Zim finance minister appears in court on fraud charges
25 November 2017, 3:05 PM

Former Zimbabwean finance minister Ignatius Chombo appeared in the Harare Magistrate’s Court on Saturday on charges of fraud, abuse of power, and corruption.

According to the “Request for Remand” court papers, Chombo, 66, is charged (count one) with contravening section 4 (a) of the Prevention of Corruption Act chapter 9:16 which states, “Does anything that is contrary to or inconsistent with his duty as a public officer”.

Count two relates to “criminal abuse as a public officer as defined in section 174 (1) (a) of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act chapter 9:23”. Count three is stated as “fraud”.

The allegation states that Chombo is a “co-director of Harvest Net Enterprises (Private) Limited, a company with owns number 61 Helensvale, Borrowdale, Harare.

Value of property stolen is $3.6 million. Value of property recovered Nil”. Chombo was arrested on Thursday according to the papers.

Last Sunday, the governing Zanu-PF fired President Robert Mugabe, and at the same time expelled Mugabe’s wife Grace and banned her for life from the party’s politics.

Also expelled were Chombo, Jonathan Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere, Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao, and many others aligned to the G40 faction, supporting Grace to succeed her husband, which had been fighting against former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa’s possible ascension to power.

After initially refusing to resign as Zimbabwean president, Mugabe 93, finally capitulated and resigned on Tuesday, bringing the parliamentary impeachment process against him to a halt.

Mnangagwa, 75, who was sacked by Mugabe earlier this month, was sworn in as Zimbabwean president on Friday.

Basson to appeal against HPCSA ruling
23 November 2017, 9:12 PM

The former apartheid-era chemical warfare, Dr Wouter Basson is expected to appeal against the Health Professional Council of South Africa (HPCSA) ruling in the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein.

Basson was found guilty of unethical behaviour while working on the apartheid government weapons programme in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Basson has taken the council (HPCSA) and two members to court for being biased against him.

He wants Professors Eddie Mhlanga and Jannie Hugo to be recused. The professors have refused to recuse themselves.

Basson was found guilty of unprofessional conduct by the Health Professions Council of SA in December 2013, following a six-year long inquiry.

The HPCSA inquiry was held to determine whether Basson acted unethically during his work on the apartheid government’s chemical and biological weapons project, Project Coast, during the 80s and early 90s.

In his defence, Basson claimed he acted as a soldier and not as a doctor.

One of accusations against him is being involved in the large-scale production of Mandrax, cocaine and teargas and supplying it to Angola’s Unita leader, Jonas Savimbi.

In 2002, Basson was acquitted by the High Court in Pretoria of criminal charges arising from his conduct.

The HPCSA reviewed the judgment to establish if there were grounds to hold an inquiry.

The state appealed against the decision of the high court in the Supreme Court of Appeal, but the appeal was dismissed.

The state then went to the Constitutional Court, but that case was dismissed in September 2005.

Amina Mohammed to deliver Nelson Mandela Lecture
23 November 2017, 8:30 PM

South Africa is going through the birth pains of a new democracy, but is likely to emerge stronger if it builds on its strengths.

That’s the view of Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations Amina Mohammed who will deliver the 2017 annual Nelson Mandela Lecture at Cape Town’s International Convention Centre on Saturday.

Mohammed indicated the she will focus on the opportunity of what the new 2030 development framework provides and offer solutions that address the theme of 2017 lecture, Centering Gender and reducing inequality through inclusion.

Amina J. Mohammed the most powerful woman at the UN, appointed the organisation’s number two after a process of 2016 that for the first time sought, but failed, to elect a woman as Secretary General.

“I am not one of those people that met this great man (Nelson Mandela), but we stand on his shoulders and we celebrate him and we try to be like him when we grow up. So, it’s setting the scene; what he stood for.”

The lecture coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women with one in five women older than 18 having experienced physical violence in South Africa.

The Mandela lecture is viewed by many as an opportunity to take the temperature of the country’s democracy.

“I think it’s going through its birth pains. I think this is a nation that is birthing through a democracy, a constitution that is quite remarkable and I think it will have a path that will have many potholes, but they come out of them stronger and I think that’s what we have to build on.”

Mohammed was born in Gombe State, Nigeria, 56 years ago – the eldest of five daughters, a wife and the mother of six, a grandmother and a former Environment Minister in her country; but describes herself in more humble terms.

“I am a development worker, all the rest are titles. It’s been my story. My pathway has never been one that I have said that this is the career path I want. It’s been one where I’ve been presented with challenges and I’ve worked through them. But I think most important, I’ve been a woman of colour and I’ve been a Muslim and in all varying circumstances it’s been tough, but with everything that is tough is an opportunity and we’ve managed to overcome those.”

The DSG reveals that she was in complete shock when she was invited to deliver the lecture.

“I thought they were just asking a number of people and so when it actually came out. I was shocked because I have to say this is not something I thought I had grown up to do just yet.”

Mohammed will be the 15th person to deliver the Mandela lecture after it’s inauguration by former United States President Bill Clinton in 2003.

Zimbabwe’s economic situation ‘very difficult’: IMF
23 November 2017, 7:24 PM

Zimbabwe’s economic growth is threatened by high government spending, an untenable foreign exchange regime and inadequate reforms, a senior International Monetary Fund (IMF) official said.

Zimbabwe was once one of Africa’s most promising economies, but suffered decades of decline as former President Robert Mugabe pursued policies that included the violent seizure of white-owned commercial farms and money-printing that led to hyperinflation.

Mugabe, 93, resigned on Tuesday after nearly four decades in power following pressure from the military, the ruling Zanu-PF party and the general population.

New Zanu-PF leader Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to be sworn in as Zimbabwe’s president on Friday.

Zimbabwe has not been able to borrow from international lenders since 1999 when it started defaulting on its debt, and has $1.75 billion in foreign arrears.

“The economic situation in Zimbabwe remains very difficult,” Gene Leon, IMF’s mission chief for Zimbabwe said in a statement to Reuters late on Wednesday.

“Immediate action is critical to reduce the deficit to a sustainable level, accelerate structural reforms, and re-engage with the international community to access much-needed financial support.”

Leon said Zimbabwe should resolve arrears to the World Bank, African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank, among other reforms, for the IMF to consider future financing request from the country.

Zimbabwe should also be ready to implement strong macroeconomic policies and structural reforms to restore fiscal and debt sustainability, Leon said.

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